During the 2011 offseason, Redskins linebacker and special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander discovered the strengthening and injury-preventative qualities of Pilates.
Since then, Alexander has incorporated it into his overall fitness routine.
"It's probably the best thing I've done as far as training," he said. "I feel like I'm healthy enough to sustain the grind of the season, and I haven't had any problems."
Pilates is a fitness program that focuses on controlled movement and breathing in order to strengthen support tissues around the dominant muscles. This can improve strength and flexibility and also work to prevent injury, as it has for Alexander.
"It trains your core and your ligaments before you work on the big muscles," he said. "If your core isn't strong enough, then you're not able to carry the weight and do the work. It helps me, as a football player, to be more powerful and explosive on the field."
Ever since Alexander, 6-1 and 265 pounds, switched from a defensive lineman to a linebacker in the 2010 offseason, he has put a focus on finding new ways to stay fit.
Alexander credited teammate Kedric Golston for getting him involved with Pilates.
Now his only regret is that he hadn't suppressed his pride and gotten involved sooner.
"Once upon a time, I believed Pilates was like yoga, and I said to myself, 'That's for women, that's not for me,'" Alexander said with a smile. "But it's not a feminine discipline. It can be very masculine, and you'll feel better when you go to the gym."
How much better?
Last December, Alexander said that he never felt as healthy so late in the football season. His numbers support it, too. He led the Redskins with 18 tackles on kick and punt coverage, nearly twice as many as his next teammate.
"When you're doing Pilates, you may not think you're doing a lot, but your core becomes tighter and your ligaments get stronger," he said. "I feel a lot stronger at 265 pounds than I was at 300 pounds and I have a better foundation to sustain a season."
Alexander and Golston teamed up to buy the Castlerock Pilates Studio in Ashburn, Va., and now run it as "The Studio M.B.S." (Mind, Body and Soul).
Teammates have noticed the results, too. Several players approached him about working out in his studio this offseason.